A former beauty queen was forced to undergo a full hysterectomy after bungling doctors misdiagnosed her ovarian cancer — as the MENOPAUSE.
Paula Brunt, 45, was left with a tumour the size of a football after visiting hospital over 20 TIMES in the space of eight months with severe abdominal pains in 2009.
Shockingly, doctors sent her on her way after saying her symptoms were most likely caused by the early onset of menopause or irritable bowel syndrome.
But after her friends started to ask if she was pregnant the mum-of-three persisted with her GP and returned to Royal Stoke University Hospital in March 2010.
Eventually she was correctly diagnosed and given the crushing news that she had ovarian cancer and she underwent surgery later that month.
Four weeks later test results showed she still had an immature teratoma, a rare form of ovarian cancer which usually affects women in their teens and 20s.
The discovery meant Paula, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., had to undergo further surgery which included a full hysterectomy in May 2010.
But in another shocking error doctors failed to refer her for chemotherapy to clear up remaining cancer cell and she was unable to have further treatment.
As a result Paula now spends her life in constant agony and has to go on a weekly 100-mile round trip to Birmingham Women’s Hospital for tests to check her cancer margins haven’t grown.
Paula has slammed medics who failed to spot she had the deadly condition and revealed she now faces an uncertain future.
She added: “I was really embarrassed when people used to ask me if I was pregnant. My stomach had swollen massively and I was in agony.
“Looking back, I had all the symptoms of ovarian cancer, but it just wasn’t picked up by the doctors. I always felt really bloated and I was having abdominal pain.
“I also started to have a swelling in my tummy and, although I thought I had put on weight at first, I didn’t understand how it could happen because I was on a strict diet.
“I went to see a GP and he referred me to the hospital to see what was wrong.
“They put it down to irritable bowel syndrome or early menopause and just told me to keep an eye on it.”
“I must have visited hospital more than 20 times over eight months in 2009, but because I have Celiac Disease, they just passed it off saying I must have eaten something dodgy.
“However, months later, the pain was becoming horrific and I went back to see my GP.
“He pressed for me to be seen at the hospital again and so I was booked in for a scan.
“I knew something was really wrong when I saw the look on the nurse’s face.
“I was really scared, but I knew they wouldn’t be able to discuss the results until a doctor had seen it.
“As I was driving home from the hospital, I had a phone call to say I needed to go to my GP surgery.
“It was there I was told they had found a tumour larger than a football on my left ovary and I would need surgery straight away.
“I felt really angry about the fact I had to have this second operation.
“Even now, I am dealing with the aftermath of what’s happened because I have got really brittle bones because of the lack of hormones my body produces.
“I am also still feeling a lot of pain and have to take painkillers regularly. It’s so bad, I can’t even bend down to do up my shoe laces.
“I don’t know what the future holds as technically the cancer is still there as doctors failed to refer me in time to have chemotherapy.
“I just have to go back to hospital every week to check the margins haven’t grown or that is has spread. Its constantly back and forth for blood tests and x-rays.
“I can’t work anymore either – the whole thing has been a nightmare.”
The former support teacher, who was crowned Miss Stoke-on-Trent in 1994, has also been left with seven big scars across her torso following extensive surgery.
Single mum Paula, who has three grown up sons, added: “Although I know looks are a trivial thing, I can’t look at myself because I feel awful.
“I am left with these horrible scars on my body from down there up to my bust, and having this hysterectomy has affected my life in so many ways.
“There are seven big scars from my operation so I have to be careful about what I wear.
“I just wish I was diagnosed earlier because that could have made a difference.
“The symptoms you get with ovarian cancer can be mistaken for something else, and therefore people can get misdiagnosed. This is why it is so important to me to raise awareness of the disease.
“I just want to stop others going through what I went through.”
Robert Courteney-Harris, medical director at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, said: “Miss Brunt was seen within seven days following a 14 day wait urgent referral from her GP.
“Five days later Miss Brunt underwent a laparotomy to assess whether a tumour was malignant.
“The result was initially not malignant but this opinion was later revised on further examination.
“This was discussed by consultants in April 2010 and Miss Brunt was advised that a hysterectomy would be required, which was performed in May 2010.
“Miss Brunt’s treatment was again discussed by consultants in June 2010, she was seen by a second doctor in August 2010 and referred to a consultant oncologist in Birmingham in September 2010.
“The clinical team made the decision not refer Miss Brunt to Birmingham immediately given the tumour had been removed completely, but accepted that this should have happened as it was Miss Brunt’s wish to do so.
“The Trust wrote to Miss Brunt in April 2011 to explain the care she received and we would be very happy to meet with Miss Brunt to discuss any ongoing concerns she may have.”
Paula is now hoping to raise funds for Ovacome, an ovarian cancer support charity which has supported her through her ordeal.
Anyone wishing to sponsor her can do so at https://www.justgiving.com/paula-ovacome/